Greeting the North Shore: Retired, but Entrepreneurs

As Baby Boomers move into “older adulthood,” one common theme that resonates is the strong desire to make a meaningful contribution.
Whether it’s volunteering, running a small business or mentoring someone, many adults want to do something that keeps them happy and involved.

Brian Bourke of Evanston is doing just that.  And he’s combined his years of experience to create an environmentally friendly product—one that everyone buys.

A Career Continues
Bourke is a graphic designer who graduated from the University of Illinois and the Art Institute. Most of his professional work was doing illustrations, brochures and annual reports for ad agencies, public relations firms and an architectural firm.

But for the last three years he has been owner and sole proprietor of GreenCards. His company produces “well designed, well illustrated, tasteful cards for a specific market niche.”

The genesis for his home-based business was in 2007 when he designed a whimsical card that featured a picture of a cicada. “That was the year we were inundated by cicadas and the card sold out at Winnetka’s famous Book Stall,” says Bourke.

Limited Production and Environmentally Friendly
From the famous insect was born a series of cards that have featured Chicago landmarks, holiday themes, sports teams and area schools. Everything is printed on 100% recycled paper with environmentally friendly inks.
Brian, whose mediums include watercolor, pencil and gauche, is the primary illustrator, along with three artists and others under consideration. “Everyone involved is 65 and older. We didn’t limit ourselves in terms of age – that’s just how GreenCards has evolved,” he explains.

None of the card images are computer generated. All the art is created by hand, transferred to Brian’s printer and produced in very limited quantities.  There is no warehouse full of cards.  Rather, Brian prints on demand for about 40 retailers, including:
•    Perennials
•    The Book Stall at Chestnut Court
•    Four Finches
•    Yellow Bird
•    Schaefer’s Fine Wines, Foods & Spirit

Life from a Different Perspective
Brian had a kidney transplant four years ago that made him look at life differently. “My transplant had tremendous complications and I clung to life in a coma for 15 days,” he says.  “Time is much more precious to me now than ever before, including my wife, Sharon, and our two daughters.”

The lesson to be learned is that talent and skill can be sustained later in life. As Brian explains, “We are not done being active and involved. If no one will hire us then we’ll hire ourselves.”

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